So the plan didn’t quite work out. Again. Poor Englebert Humperdinck’s entry “Love will set you free” ended up coming second-last in the Eurovision final, adding to a pretty crappy string of results for the UK.
In the end, despite a lot of good feeling towards Englebert and the song, it wasn’t a really memorable song, and it was the first song to be performed on the night. The latter fact isn’t a deal-breaker, although it is an uphill struggle for any song to be remembered after 20-odd more songs. Songs in the first batch of performers routinely get top 5 finishes. Indeed Albania did just this after performing third, but their song was (terrifyingly) memorable.
Of course the British fall back on the old Terry Wogan mantra “it’s all politics these days”. It’s so infuriating … and there’s no way to disprove it of course. EBU have tried to organise the finals in such a way that neighbourhood voting has as small an effect as possible, but that’s all it is, neighbourhood voting.
The distinction to make is that I can’t believe people vote for their neighbours simply because they are neighbours. There is a mass of shared culture between most neighbouring countries, especially the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavian republics. This includes musical styles, arrangements, all sorts of things. Perhaps crucially, they often send artists popular in a large region, as many Balkans did this year. I meant that’s a pretty good start, right?
We’ve flirted with this idea after sending Blue and Engelbert, but these were mostly spent forces in Europe (as in the UK), it’s not like we were sending a big current act. OK Engelbert is touring a lot but get real, he’s not a massive commercial artist. We struck lucky sending Jade Ewen in 2009 flanked by Andrew Lloyd Webber, securing us an all-but-forgotten 5th place in Moscow, thanks to a good promo tour. But the following year the same idea was used but the reins were handed to Pete Waterman to make something “Eurovision would like”, though it’s patently obvious we don’t know what that really means.
Blue felt like a step forward, and they came back with something contemporary. 11th place was a big improvement on our decade average, and it even came 5th place just on the televote. We need to lure someone current into entering. Only THEN, and with a good result, might the UK start to be rehabilitated. But we need to get over this stupid victim complex that everyone hates us, because they don’t.
British music is popular worldwide, so why aren’t we sending our best? I hope Loreen’s massive success Europe-wide might help, she’s looking to score a top 5 hit in the UK on Sunday, a real rarity in the UK charts for a non-UK entry. At the moment Eurovision is viewed as career poison, and we need to break this Catch-22 in order to make any progress.
Next year, I hope the BBC finds a current young artist – maybe their career needs a bit of publicity – and gets some notable songwriters, British or otherwise to write a handful of songs, maybe even three would do. Then the public can vote for their favourite song. Public votes are good for getting people behind our entries, but we tend to (sometimes are coerced to) pick the cheesiest song on offer because that’s “more Eurovision”. Please save us from ourselves and don’t give us the choice to do this.
It’s not rocket science, and I don’t understand why the BBC seem so hopeless at this. If they can’t manage it, then let ITV do it. Or Channel 4. Both are EBU members and could therefore take over. But if the BBC can’t make the effort, and we can’t get behind our own entries, then we deserve everything we get.